First State Bank announces the promotion of Kevin Konkol to vice president – agriculture/business banking. He joined First State Bank in 2007.

Konkol began his career at the bank as a consumer banking and investment assistant. He became a financial advisor for the First State Investment Center in 2010 before transitioning to the First State Bank’s ag lending department in 2011. Konkol was promoted to portfolio manager in 2017 and again in late 2019 to agriculture/business banking officer.

“Kevin has truly grown with our bank over the last 13 years, particularly in his knowledge and experience in ag lending,” commented bank president, Bob Van Asten. “He understands the opportunities and challenges that farmers face and is committed to developing solutions to help them with their unique financial needs.”

Konkol graduated from the Wisconsin Bankers Association Commercial Lending School in 2018 and Leadership Waupaca County in 2020. He has been a Waupaca County Forage Council member and has volunteered for Feeding America. Konkol also continues to help operate the family dairy farm. He and his wife, Jessica, live in Waupaca and have two children.

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By, Alex Paniagua

Waukesha State Bank, a full-service community bank with 14 offices in Waukesha County, is pleased to announce the promotions of Devon Arnold, Kim Castillo Huntley, Rob Helvey, Tina Neis, Ann Pascavis, and Patricia Witkowiak to senior vice presidents.

“Devon, Kim, Rob, Tina, Ann and Pat are extremely talented banking professionals and have been instrumental in Waukesha State Bank’s success,” stated Ty R. Taylor, Waukesha State Bank president & CEO. “These promotions reflect the tenure and experience of our senior leadership, and I look forward to their continuing contributions to the future growth of Waukesha State Bank.”

Devon Arnold began his extensive career with Waukesha State Bank in 1978, working part-time while still in high school, and has held varying positions over his 40-years of employment. He transitioned to a full-time teller in 1984 and was promoted to assistant cashier in 1986, bank manager in 1993, assistant vice president – bank manager in 1994, vice president – bank manager in 1998 and vice president – manager of retail banking in 2003. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and in his new role as senior vice president – manager of retail banking, Devon will continue to direct the bank’s retail banking staff and operations including managing all branch retail offices, the customer service center and the Waukesha Investments division. In addition, he will continue to oversee retail sales, retail lending, employee development, and various vendor relationships including the bank’s credit card program. He ensures an exceptional customer service experience at all Waukesha State Bank branch offices.

Kim Castillo Huntley joined the Waukesha State Bank team in 2018, as vice president – manager of human resources, and has over 20 years of human resources experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and human resources from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and has extensive skills in the areas of process improvement, leadership training, HRIS implementation, employee relations, and benefit administration. In her new role as senior vice president – manager of human resources, Castillo Huntley will continue to be responsible for strategic planning and oversight in the areas of recruitment, employee relations, and employee benefits, which includes talent acquisition, onboarding and retention, training and development, performance management, payroll oversight, diversity and inclusion, and benefits administration.

Originally from the Madison area, Rob Helvey came to Waukesha State Bank in 2016, as vice president – manager of mortgage lending, and has over 20 years of mortgage lending experience. In his new role as senior vice president – manager of mortgage operations, Helvey will continue to be responsible for managing the mortgage lending staff and leading the day-to-day operations of the department, all while continuing the bank’s mission of providing clients with personalized service and a wide range of options to meet all of their home buying and refinancing needs.

Tina Neis joined Waukesha State Bank in 1999 as an SBA loan administrator. She was promoted to assistant cashier in 2002, assistant vice president – assistant cashier in 2004, vice president – commercial banking officer in 2006, and vice president – manager of commercial credit in 2015. Neis has extensive experience in commercial lending specializing in underwriting and the administration of commercial loans and commercial real estate. She holds a bachelor of business administration degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. In her new role as senior vice president – manager of commercial credit, Neis will continue to be responsible for managing the bank’s commercial credit function, which includes overseeing the commercial underwriting, approval, and auditing processes.

Ann Pascavis has more than 25 years of experience in finance and banking and started her career with Waukesha State Bank in 2003 as controller. She was promoted to vice president – controller in 2004 and vice president-chief financial officer in 2006. Pascavis holds a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and is also a certified public accountant. In her new role as senior vice president-chief financial officer, Pascavis will continue to be responsible for overseeing the administrative, financial, tax, and risk management functions of the bank including strategic planning and the ongoing development and monitoring of control systems.

Patricia Witkowiak joined Waukesha State Bank in 2013 as the assistant manager of operations. She was promoted to vice president – assistant manager of operations in February of 2016 and vice president – manager of operations in July of 2016. In the last eight years, Witkowiak has been directly involved with the opening of four new branches and the implementation of various new products and services, including mobile banking, online bill pay, online account opening, mobile wallets, and contactless cards. In her new role as senior vice president – manager of operations, Witkowiak will continue to be responsible for managing the bank’s day-to-day operations including security, information systems, and facilities management, as well as new product development and implementation. She holds a bachelor of business administration degree from Cardinal Stritch University.

By, Alex Paniagua

By Rose Oswald Poels

Your voice continues to be critical as we advocate for a myriad of issues on behalf of the banking industry at the state and federal levels. While WBA is your advocacy representative, there is no more effective “lobbyist” than a banker engaging in conversations with elected officials and regulators. This message was certainly shared recently during ICBA’s virtual Capital Summit and last month during ABA’s virtual Washington Conference. Many of you have first-hand experience joining WBA over the years in Washington, Madison, or virtually, as we routinely engage in individual meetings with our entire Congressional delegation and state delegation. My message today is simple: continue being an active participant in our advocacy efforts and encourage other bankers to join us!

Our federal and state legislative agendas are robust and at the same time, our regulatory initiatives are equally substantive. In order for WBA to be successful in accomplishing our advocacy goals, we need your ongoing active involvement as well. If you are not already signed up, please register to attend our 2021 WBA Capitol Day and tell your story to your state elected officials. Our 2021 Capitol Day will be virtual and held in two parts: a large-group kickoff on May 11, and individual meetings scheduled separately with legislators. Very few legislators have experience in banking, so it’s critical to build relationships with your elected leaders to help them understand how public policy impacts your bank’s ability to aid in the economic growth and vitality of your community. You can learn more and register here.

While WBA held virtual meetings with our entire congressional delegation in January and February, we are planning to meet with the delegation again during their August recess to advocate for our federal legislative agenda. Some of these may be virtual; however, if the elected official is willing to meet in person, we will plan to meet in their local district office. If you are interested in joining us for these meetings, please contact me at ropoels@wisbank.com.
WBA is also engaging in small group virtual meetings with each of the banking regulators over the course of the next few months. Normally, we host these meetings in person in Madison in addition to visiting the industry’s regulators in Washington each fall. If you are interested in participating in a small group virtual conversation with your bank’s regulator, please contact WBA’s VP-Legal Heather MacKinnon at hmackinnon@wisbank.com. In addition to sharing which regulator is your bank’s primary federal regulator, please also provide Heather with any specific topic or issue you’d like to make sure is raised during these conversations.
Finally, if your bank does not already have an advocacy officer identified for WBA, please appoint someone to that role today by contacting WBA’s John Cronin at jcronin@wisbank.com. The WBA Board of Directors set a goal for every WBA member to have one named advocacy officer, so I need your help to reach this goal! The advocacy officer should not be the bank president or CEO. Ideally, this person should be someone willing to be the primary point of contact to receive WBA’s advocacy information and help coordinate grassroots engagement and political fundraising within the bank. WBA staff provide support and information to help the advocacy officer succeed so that the time spent by the banker is minimal.
Thank you for your active involvement over the years in our advocacy efforts. I look forward to this dedication continuing throughout this next session.

Woodford State Bank is excited to announce two new employees for its New Glarus location. Corey Pope has joined the bank as VP – mortgage & commercial lender. Kasey Bruehlman has joined as branch manager/personal banker. 

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By, Alex Paniagua

Wisconsin Realtors Association March 2021 data showed a 10.2 percent increase in the median sale price of an existing home from the prior year, while home prices nationally reached $329,100 in March 2021, an increase of 17.2 percent year-over-year. 
 
The Appleton housing market ranked highest in Wisconsin on The Wall Street Journal and realtor.com Emerging Housing Market Index released today. The Index ranks the 300 biggest metro areas in the U.S. and uses economic and lifestyle data such as the unemployment rate, wages, commute time, and small-business loans to create the ranking. According to realtor.com and as a contrast to national median home prices, home prices for the top 10 markets in the index have risen 27 percent on average in the past year. 
 

Today, three key indices are going to be announced, which will help further define the housing market and the overall U.S. economy. The Case-Shiller home price index, the Consumer Confidence index, and the Homeownership rate. The Case-Shiller Index is actually made up of several indexes that track the value of single-family detached residences using the arms-length and repeat-sales methods. The Consumer Confidence Index is a survey, administered by the Conference Board, that measures how optimistic or pessimistic consumers are regarding their expected financial situation. The Census Bureau releases data that makes up the homeownership rate, which is the percentage of U.S. homes that are owner-occupied. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of homes that are owner-occupied by the total number of occupied households. According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the homeownership rate reached its lowest point in 50 years in 2016 Q2 at 62.9 percent. 

WI Markets Ranked on the Wall Street Journal/realtor.com Index 

14 Appleton  Wisconsin 
19 Madison  Wisconsin 
35 Janesville-Beloit  Wisconsin 
37 Oshkosh-Neenah  Wisconsin 
113 Racine  Wisconsin 
117 Green Bay  Wisconsin 
134 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis  Wisconsin 
168 Wausau  Wisconsin 
218 Eau Claire  Wisconsin 
38 La Crosse-Onalaska  Wisconsin – Minnesota

 

 

Sources: 

By, Alex Paniagua

The long awaited 2020 census data was released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau. These data are used for a variety of purposes, but perhaps none more significant than congressional district reapportionment. Wisconsin will neither gain nor lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — holding steady at eight. Our population grew 3.6 percent to just shy of 5.9 million. This outpaced Midwest growth by half a point, but trailed national growth, which clocked in at 7.1 percent. 

The same cannot be said for some of our Midwestern neighbors; Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio will all shed one seat each. Joining them are Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and California.  On the opposite side of the ledger, Texas will receive two additional seats. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon will gain one each. 

This sets the scene for a closely watched reapportionment process once district-level data becomes available later this year. Democrats currently hold a razor thin margin in the House of Representatives; will they be able to hold on in the November 2022 midterms? We will have to wait and see!  

In Wisconsin, congressional and legislative district boundaries are drawn by the state legislature. This process will begin in August and stretch well into the fall. The maps are treated like ordinary bills — they must be passed in identical forms by both houses and then signed into law by the Governor. It is unlikely Democratic Governor Tony Evers will approve districts passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and the maps are all but guaranteed to end up in court. In fact, the legal jockeying has already begun to try to dictate the venue for those anticipated court interventions. 

By, Cassie Krause

Commerce State Bank has announced that Carla Cross, president/CEO of Cross Management Services, has agreed to join the bank’s Board of Directors. Ms. Cross’s official first meeting will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
 
Ms. Cross brings a strong financial, real estate, and development background to the post. Additionally, she has worked with the city of Milwaukee and many other communities and organizations, including key roles in the development of the Fiserv Forum, Miller Park, and the extensive renovation of Lambeau Field. She will be the second female and the first African American Director on the Board. 
 
Commerce State Bank CEO Joe Fazio said, “We are thrilled to have such a talented, accomplished new member join our Board. With her background, knowledge, and experience, Carla will bring a great perspective to our board. Our purpose to increase the talent and expertise, as well as the diversity of the board was intentional and deliberate. Part of our business strategy is to support and reflect the markets we serve. We will continue to make that happen.” 
 
“It’s an honor to join the Board of Directors of Commerce State Bank,” said Ms. Cross. “I’m excited to incorporate my diverse perspective as I work alongside my new colleagues to mold the present and future of this institution. Commerce State Bank focuses on serving the needs of small business and I look forward to introducing my network of small businesses to another strong banking option that will be a valuable business partner for their growth.” 
 

By, Alex Paniagua

First Business Bank is pleased to announce that Jessica Colby was hired as vice president – wealth advisor in the Private Wealth group. 

“Jessica is a natural fit for First Business Bank’s Private Wealth team in our Kansas City Metro office,” said Brendan Freeman, president of First Business Bank’s Private Wealth group. “With in-depth experience also working with businesses, she’s very knowledgeable about how personal and family financial priorities intertwine with business financial goals and synchronizing them to maintain harmony.” 

Colby has 20 years of experience in the financial services and banking industry, including various roles specifically working with businesses and individuals. The last six years of her career she has focused on Private Wealth, providing proactive, holistic advice to high-net-worth individuals, business owners, their families and foundations incorporating banking, wealth planning, investment management, asset protection, and estate and succession planning services designed to meet clients’ individual priorities. 

Colby received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Drury University where she was also a varsity soccer player for four years. Colby’s previous volunteer efforts have been supporting building leaders in children through athletics, empowering women, and children’s education/mental health. 

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By, Alex Paniagua

For many bankers, it has been more than a year since they have seen a free flow of foot traffic through their doors. Some continue to work remotely, while others navigate the limited capacity at their branch, interacting with a fraction of the community that used to fill the space. With banks at various stages of operation during what feels like a sprint toward the end of this crisis, many are wondering what reopening will look like and how the pandemic will impact this process, even after the threat of the virus recedes. 

Fine Lines and Looser Limits 

For banks that have one branch, reopening might be a matter of determining what will work best for the community. TJ Minnehan, president of Bank of Kaukauna, has said his bank has created a "by-appointment" model to control the flow of people since the start of the shutdown. Strategically limiting who comes in and out allows for the bank to still welcome their customers while strengthening safety guidelines. 

“We’re a one-shop location, so we’ve taken as much caution as we can to avoid a massive outbreak inside of our institution,” said Minnehan. “Through all of this, that was at the front of mind for us. If we had an internal massive outbreak, we would have found ourselves in a position that would have challenged us for a period of time while people recovered.” 

The conversations at Bank of Kaukauna currently peg them at a tentative reopening date of June 1 to allow free-flow traffic back into the branch. Minnehan attributes this date to the mask mandate’s length of enforceability combined with the number of people that will likely be fully vaccinated by this time. The concern for banks that have multiple locations in various parts of the state, however, creates a slightly different story.  

“Our Adams and Marquette offices have been open-lobby since mid-year 2020, and our Dane County lobbies were re-established as a choice for clients in early March,” said Steve Peotter, president and CEO of One Community Bank. “It has been an interesting mix as we evaluated our COVID posture in geographically distinct communities.” 

Many bankers noted that managing through this crisis has not been so much about closing the bank as it has been controlling the flow of people in and out of lobbies. Banks with multiple locations face the question of opening their branches all at once or reopening each depending on what the COVID data shows for each community. Dan Riebe, executive vice president of Frandsen Bank & Trust, Eau Claire, believes reopening should be considered on a per-branch basis.  

“I think we continuously have to recognize that every location is a little bit different as far as how this is impacting them and how their community is reacting,” Riebe said. “Some of the steps that I take here in Eau Claire might not be a good fit for someone in Madison or Milwaukee. You have to look at your community, look at the cases, and ask what others are doing in the area and that will work best.” 

Riebe’s bank went to drive-up only in March of 2020 and stayed that way until they opened their lobbies once again on April 1. With the bank being commercial, he noted that lobby traffic was never much of an issue for them, even before the pandemic. Factors like this, he added, should be considered when banks reopen and what restrictions should be set. 

In contrast, Minnehan noted that Bank of Kaukauna has a slightly older customer base on average. Looking at the combined risk that the virus has to their staff and to their customers, restricting access to lobbies early on seemed like the right thing to do. Options are still available for those looking to meet in person by setting up an appointment, and the drive-ups continue to operate with no issues. 

“The hard part is, we want to get back to seeing our customers and doing business face to face while doing it safely, but I don’t want to turn my staff into the mask police,” said Minnehan. “That seems like a place where you can have a rub with customers, and it seems avoidable. I think people are very understanding that we have to just keep taking the steps that are necessary to keep everyone safe. It’s a fine line that we’re all working with.” 

Keeping the Safety of Staff in Mind 

It goes without saying that the ‘when’ of reopening is only one part of a complex process. The other major element impacting banks’ decisions to open their doors is the ‘how.’ 

“The safety of our staff, our clients, and our community are paramount in terms of importance,” Riebe said. “Being able to operate and deliver to our clients are important as well. We can’t eliminate risk, but we get paid to manage risk.” 

According to the bankers, determining the best way to reopen or expand capacity can often be as simple as asking your staff how comfortable they are with certain options. For many, maintaining constant communication was a critical part of getting through the worst of the pandemic. 

“Since the COVID journey started, we have been very communicative with our team,” Peotter said. “We ask for feedback in a very formalized way through anonymous surveys, we engage in discussion regarding things like work-life balance, we make accommodations for our people to provide at-home care for taking care of children when school was paused. We were very collaborative and very transparent in the attempt to determine what the correct course of action was for all of us.” 

At the same time, it may not always be the basic question of whether someone is comfortable with a higher number of people in the building, Riebe added. He said that for those employees who never stopped working at the branches, a year of wearing masks for over eight hours each day has not become any more comfortable. This might require a further step toward alleviating the stress that comes with being open while these restrictions are in place. 

“Wearing a mask for eight hours is miserable,” said Riebe. “Even at the beginning, we’ve set time aside for our staff, especially at the teller line, to try and get five or ten minutes every hour in a private office to take their mask off. The teller lines are the hot points in terms of staff that have to be regularly masked, so we want to make their lives as easy as possible.” 

Each banker addressed the fact that although they would love to do away with masks, they don’t see this as an immediate option for the safety of their staff and community.  

“It’ll be nice to get rid of the masks and not have to worry about this,” said Minnehan. “But I have a feeling this is something we’ll have to contend with for the foreseeable future in terms of preventive action. Whatever the new version of normal may end up being, I would like to think we’re not too far off from doing away with masks and social distancing. I don’t think it’s on the horizon, but I think it’s inevitable.” 

The good news is that they have found the majority of their customers are more than okay with restrictions put in place and are simply happy to step into their bank again. It’s a positive sign that banks will likely not have to worry about customers questioning continued safety guidelines.  

“Clients who have chosen to use lobbies for their banking needs have been wonderful to work with,” said Peotter. “Everyone is very understanding of the various safety protocols across different organizations, and our colleagues are very comfortable providing those services given the barriers, social distancing, and mask requirements inside the banks. I think this shows really great potential for whatever comes next.” 

A New Look for Banks 

Remote work, plexiglass barriers, and new technologies have been just a few of the ways banks have changed from the inside out. The thought of returning to full capacity has caused many to ask if these innovations are here for good or if their use in banks is set to expire. 

Peotter stated that prior to the pandemic, he firmly believed that people working together in person at the banks was the best possible thing for both colleagues and clients. He has since changed his perspective and believes that allowing a mix of work-from-home and work-from-office allows for a balanced life without sacrificing any of the quality service and teamwork.  

“We are proud to continue offering a hybrid approach to our colleagues to have a mix of work-from-home and work-from-office,” said Peotter. “There are some colleagues we have not seen in the office since mid-March of 2020, and we are more than confident that those colleagues continue to provide great service to clients and support for each other.” 

Aside from employee productivity, another concern for remote work was uncertainty regarding the safety and reliability of technology. It became common for banks to consider upgrades in several areas as time in the pandemic strung on, and this has resulted in a greater change than the capability to work from home more effectively. 

“We were introduced to new technology partners and things that we feel will really benefit us as time goes on, just in terms of digital applications and more efficient ways to handle documents that are faster, safer, and more user-friendly for both us and the customer,” said Minnehan. “There were certainly many silver linings despite a lot of the damage that’s been caused.”  

As a result of 2020, Bank of Kaukauna is finalizing a new mortgage loan originating system that was not anticipated to be done until 2023. The technology that banks had on their radar for three, four, five-plus years in the future are quickly becoming a reality to the changing infrastructure of financial institutions. 

So, if you stop by a neighboring bank a year or two from now, you might see slightly fewer employees here and there and a few more technological advances. The most noticeable change, however, might be one that’s a little harder to miss.  

Plexiglass barriers have become a necessity for workers speaking with multiple people each day, but the end of this crisis might not end with Reagan’s famous lines to Mr. Gorbachev. The overall safety that comes with these barriers has caused many bankers to want the wall kept up indefinitely rather than torn down.  

“Regardless of COVID, if we think the dividers are effective in preventing our staff from even getting the cold or the flu, there’s a good chance we’ll keep those, if not just because of the anecdotal evidence,” said Riebe. 

When asked about the anecdote he was referencing, Riebe emphasized an interesting response he has heard which he believes may point to a heightened awareness of what is being spread indoors, no matter where you might be. 

“After the dividers are getting cleaned, it's not uncommon to hear ‘I never realized all this was coming through to the teller counter every day.’ Now that it’s visible, I think people have become a lot more conscious of their surroundings in that way. This might just be an obvious safety technique that we keep in perpetuity.” 

As your bank considers the prospects of reopening individual branches, it will likely be a process that reviews the considerations of colleagues and customers. Reopening will most likely include going over the data in your community, managing risk, and keeping flexible options available for both customers and employees who are feeling ill. 

“When this started, we didn’t know what the future held,” said Minnehan. “We still don’t. But we do what we can, hours through the night and the weekend, because we have a community that is counting on us. So here we are, making a difference.”  

By, Alex Paniagua

The OCC has released a list of 15 OCC-supervised institutions evaluated for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act whose evaluations became public in March. Of those evaluations, six have been rated as “outstanding” including Pyramax Bank, FSB in Greenfield. Congratulations to Pyramax Bank for earning this commendable evaluation.  

The evaluation report noted that the major factors that support this rating include: 

  • The Lending Test rating is based on reasonable performance in the state of Wisconsin. 
  • The Community Development (CD) Test is based on excellent performance in the state of Wisconsin. 
  • The LTD ratio is more than reasonable given the bank’s size, financial condition, and the credit needs of its AA. 
  • PyraMax Bank, FSB (PyraMax) originated a substantial majority of loans in its assessment area (AA). The bank originated or purchased 81.9 percent of its total loans by number and 82.3 percent by dollar amount inside its AAs during the evaluation period. 
  • The borrower distribution of loans among borrowers of different incomes and small loans to businesses is considered reasonable. 
  • The geographic distribution of home mortgage loans reflects reasonable distribution among geographies and excellent distribution of small loans to businesses. 
  • PyraMax demonstrated excellent responsiveness to CD needs by engaging in a combination of CD loans, qualified investments, and CD services. 

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By, Alex Paniagua